Garmin Connect Switches to Bing Maps

This isn’t exactly a new issue, but it’s worth noting. Garmin’s November 18th blog post mentions the latest update. The change generating the largest amount of buzz seems to be the 6th item in the list: transitioning to Bing maps. I’ll give you an idea what we’re talking about if you haven’t formed an opinion yet. Here’s an old activity of mine on Garmin Connect:

Switch between the different map views to familiarize yourself with Bing maps.

Now here’s the very same activity on Trimble Outdoors (which still uses Google Maps):

Note the differences. The BIGGEST difference is a lack of topo views. Google Maps offers its terrain view. MyTopo is an added map layer that Trimble Outdoors (and a couple others) offer in addition. Bing maps has neither of these options. Now compare the satellite imagery. Bing is absolutely TERRIBLE. I think in this area the street maps are a wash, but I prefer the aesthetics of Google’s maps over Bing.

There seem to be some interesting comments in Garmin’s blog post about this transition. First, Garmin bills it as an “improvement”. I don’t know what planet they’re from…but how are Bing’s maps an improvement over Garmin’s? Garmin also says, “…using Bing maps with Garmin Connect provided an opportunity to build upon our existing relationship with Microsoft.” I think this really gets down to the matter. Garmin is in bed with Microsoft and there’s probably an agreement somewhere that says Garmin HAS to use Bing maps. The following statement is just a plain lie, though: “Garmin Connect users will continue to enjoy all of the familiar mapping features and functions that bring more than 40 million saved activities to life, and working with Bing will lead to more exciting developments in the future.” No, we’re losing mapping features out of the transition (loss of terrain view and loss of satellite image quality). I don’t know what Bing has planned for the future, but they’ve got a lot of ground to make up on Google.

The community of people who share GPS data are also displeased with the transition (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26…do I need to go on?). You’ll notice the complaints come from all over the world, but it seems international users are especially screwed by the “transition”.

There’s even a Facebook Group dedicated to the issue and a Google Chrome plugin (discussion) that replaces Bing maps with Google Maps in the details view. It’s not quite the same, though. You’re still stuck with Bing in a number of other places in the Connect site. My advice is to leave Garmin Connect. I’d delete all my data from there, but I’ve embedded a lot of Garmin Connect stuff on my site and it’d create a bit of a nightmare for me updating my site. So I will simply cease uploading to GC. The rest of you might wonder where to go. I have a handful of links to sharing sites on my sidebar that I have found useful. Someone over on the Groundspeak forums put together an even more extensive list a few years ago that might be worth a look if you’re searching for a new sharing site.

This is a huge disappointment from Garmin. They don’t seem to have any interest in addressing their obviously upset user base. Maybe they’re waiting for the storm of anger to dissipate before they comment. Maybe they just hope that if they ignore it, people will settle down and continue using their service. I think this is the last straw. The old Motionbased site was the pioneer for the industry. Garmin botched the migration from Motionbased which opened the door for a host of competitors to crop up. The old Motionbased users who were left (I have been only partially left…I have been using other sharing sites since the botched transition, but hadn’t left GC entirely until this issue came up) are probably mostly leaving this time around. Seems a lot of newer users are plenty upset, too, and are likely to leave.

Garmin would be well served to address user concerns, but I highly doubt they’ll be returning to Google. They’re losing customers over this who will probably look elsewhere when it’s time to buy their next GPS hardware, too.

Upset with the “transition” to Bing? Add your comments. The more bad press Garmin gets over this, the better chance we have for REAL improvements.

–Yay! The outcry across the internet has forced Garmin to take notice!

Today, December 15th, (yes, 17 days after I made this post in the first place), Garmin announced that it’s going to make some improvements. They’re bringing in a terrain view and birds eye imagery in the details view, among some other updates.

I’ll reserve my final judgement until I actually see the updates, but it’s nice to hear Garmin FINALLY officially respond to the criticism that’s been heaped upon them for bringing in Bing maps.

13 comments to Garmin Connect Switches to Bing Maps

  • Darlene

    Thanks for the informative posting. You summed up my feelings and gave a good overview of the situation. Amazing how a company can screw their customers in such a major way and not acknowledge their crap behavior. In your opinion, what other hardware would compare to the Forerunner 305?

  • The GPS Geek

    There are a couple GPS watches on the market, but Garmin still has the best hardware on the market right now. Timex, Suunto and Polar have GPS watches, but neither is quite as good according to the reviews I’ve read. Eventually someone will put a strong competitor on the market. Just hold onto your Forerunner until then.

  • Jerome

    Thanks, I totally agree with your remarks and hope that a Garmin competitor will provide soon hardware that have the same functionalities than Garmin … then I can ensure that most of user will switch!
    It’s a shame, Google is the best localization platform and Bing is poor, especially for European users such as me (Switzerland).

  • Andy

    If you’re a windows user, it’s no big deal. Sportracks from zonefivesoftware is a superior solution if you’re a serious runner anyway. No web interface much and the free version has a choice of mapserver. I’m disappointed with the switch, but I can almost guarantee that it was a business decision with money being exchanged between Microsoft and Garmin.

  • Kasper (Denmark)

    FAIL Garmin!

    I’m very very disappointed with the switch!

  • Anthony

    I found this blog after downloading the maps from my new Edge 500 to Garmin Connect. I’ve been a long time Garmin user, but haven’t used GC since July. What a shock to find out they switched to Bing maps. In a nutshell, the Bing maps are horrendous. The lack of the terrain view is downright insulting to someone who uses a GPS for outdoor activities. The Bing maps have nearly zero detail in rural Australia. All in all Garmin has failed miserably, I hope they give the users of their products a choice when it comes to mapping in Garmin Connect, I can’t say why anyone would choose Bing over Google, certainly Garmin must realize this by reading into the consumer backlash. I hope Garmin faces some stiff competition soon in the bicycle/running GPS arena, it’s boneheaded choices like using Bing they’re allowed to get away with by have little to no competition.

  • Nizhniy

    I agree totally. As an Edge 500 user, I must say the hardware is superb and works very well. However, a bit of investigation has made me realise that I need not use Garmin Connect. I think that smaller, community-based sites like ridewithgps.com are the way forward. Log on and have a go!

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  • jovan b.

    One of the reasons I’m glad that Garmin switched away from Google is because Google have incorrect Street Names. When I tried to edit the Street Names to be correct in two instances, they DENIED the changes, even though Bing Maps had the correct Street Name in BOTH instances.

  • The GPS Geek

    I had the same problem. In fact, Google had gone so far as to have one street PLACED where there was no street, two streets with the wrong names, and one street with no name. Bing still sucks, IMO, but at least OSM is more flexible with edits.

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